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Dr John McAleer 

Associate Professor in History; Head of Admissions

Dr John McAleer's photo

Dr John McAleer is an Associate Professor in History at the University of Southampton.

I am a historian of the British Empire. My work focuses on the British encounter and engagement with the wider world in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, situating the history of empire in its global and maritime contexts. I am interested in the relationships, interactions and patterns of exchange created by the British Empire, and in assessing the impact of these experiences on both British and colonial societies.

Before joining the Department, I was Curator of Imperial and Maritime History at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. During my time at the museum, I worked on the development and delivery of two gallery projects, focusing on Atlantic and Indian Ocean history respectively. I continue to be interested in the role of material culture and museums in representing the history of empire.

H-Commons profile

Research interests

My research is directed towards understanding, assessing and evaluating Britain’s place in the wider world: the manifestation and impact of empire on British society and culture; its effect on ‘peripheral’ communities (and vice versa); its fundamentally entangled nature (geographically, politically, ethnically); and the nature of the relationship between science, material culture, exploration and empire.

My latest monograph, Britain’s Maritime Empire: Southern Africa, the South Atlantic and the Indian Ocean, 1763–1820, explores the ways in which British networks and institutions, such as the East India Company, facilitated linkages and connections in the wider Indian Ocean world. This work aims to problematize and re-evaluate notions of ‘core’ and ‘periphery’ by considering the British presence in the southern Atlantic and Indian Oceans, especially the Cape of Good Hope, St Helena and Mauritius.

Building on this work, I am also interested in the contribution of islands to the development of the British Empire. This is a theme that I am actively exploring through an AHRC-funded network, ‘An Empire of Islands: Concepts, Connections and Collections’.

I also have a long-standing interest in the history of museums, collecting and their complex relationships with empire, both historically and today. An edited collection entitled Curating Empire brought together a series of case studies that used the medium of museums and collections to investigate how global connections, networks and experiences affected people in a range of societies. More recently, Exhibiting the Empire, co-edited with John MacKenzie, explored various cultures of display and their impacts on the representation of the British Empire.

I am a fellow of the Royal Historical Society and I sit on the council of the Hakluyt Society. 


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Book Chapters


I teach undergraduate courses on a range of themes: the history of the British Empire; exploration, science and empire; the history of museums, collections and collecting.

Currently, I offer the following modules:

HIST3176 and HIST3177: Forging the Raj: The East India Company and Britain’s Asian World

HIST2090: Britain’s Global Empire, 1750–1870

HIST2079: Britain goes Global: The Voyages of Captain Cook

HIST1118: The Seven Years War (1756–63) and Britain's Global Empire

HIST6082: Public History

Postgraduate supervision

I would welcome enquiries from prospective students interested in pursuing postgraduate research on aspects of Britain’s imperial and maritime history (especially relating to Africa, Asia and the Pacific), the history of European exploration, and the history of museums.

Past PhD projects supervised:

Lindsay Doulton, ‘Suppressing the slave trade in the Indian Ocean World: race, identity and empire’ (NMM in conjunction with the University of Hull)

Mary Wills, ‘‘The Royal Navy and attitudes to abolition in the Atlantic World’ (NMM in conjunction with the University of Hull)

Sian Williams ‘Circuits of knowledge: the Royal Navy in the Caribbean, 1763–1815

Current PhD projects supervised:

Maria Newbery, ‘Southampton’s maritime trade in the late eighteenth century’

Scott Daly, ‘Royal Navy dockyards and the British maritime world, c.1780–1820’

Dr John McAleer
Building 65 Faculty of Arts and Humanities University of Southampton Avenue Campus Highfield Southampton SO17 1BF United Kingdom Email:

Room Number : 65/2043

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